“Is he the one?” Person A asked.
“Yes, look at him walking as if someone just humped him dry. Of course he’s the one,” Person B replied.
Person A sidled up to me as I was trudging along, freshly dry-humped, and asked, “Are you th-“
“Yes, yes, I am the one, for fuck’s sake.”
His face took on a look of unadulterated awe. He touched my shoulder, probably to check if I was real. Having confirmed my existence in every relevant dimension, he shook his head.
“Respect, man. You must support one shit football team.”
I walked on, stone-faced. The news of the 8-2 had spread around unusually quickly in a college that traditionally follows football about as much as I follow the college curriculum. As I continued to look for somewhere devoid of human habitation, I met people who cat-called and pulled my hair, people who put on their best mourning face and gave their respects, people who gave me an apparently comforting pat on the back and mumbled ‘at least you kept it to single digits’, people who recoiled from me as if I had some kind of footballing gonorrhoea; but no people who walked past me without giving me a second glance. Being the centre of attention was unsettling enough, but the reason for me being thrust into this cruel limelight made the experience all the more traumatic.
Attempting to analyse the match would be an exercise in futility and masochism. I sneaked a look at the thesaurus, but there were only so many synonyms for ‘rancid poo’ for me to try and elaborate on our performance. I concede all points about a) us having an extremely weakened team, b) at least four of the goals being truly excellent strikes that no team could have done much about, c) all good karma for the day being siphoned off by Spurs’ 5-1 mauling against City, and other excuses being bandied about post-game. But the nitty and the gritty of the matter is that each excuse can be easily riposted by smiling and asking what the final score was. 8-2 doesn’t leave room for many excuses.
While it would be a stretch to compare my hostel common room to Stretford End, there is no denying the fact that games between Arsenal and Man United always see the prawn sandwich brigade out in full force. Apart from the usual United fans (who are at least somewhat justified in their smugness) there emerges a whole new colony of Red Devil larvae on big match days, who come, watch the match, beat their chests after victory in an effort to offset whatever major tragedy their lives mirror, and drop the fan mask the next day, just like larvae dying out.
Taking my place in the midst of this heckling, sneering crowd didn’t elicit much confidence in a match that I was already very worried about. And United started bossing the game right from the outset. There was ring-running around the Arsenal midfield, an Anderson chipped pass, Djourou windmilling backwards and Welbeck nodding the ball in. A wall of noise went up. One Man United maggot identified me as the enemy, and there was prolonged laughing and pointing of fingers.
Then Arshavin fed the ball to Walcott, he fell under no major contact and the referee, astonishingly, gave Arsenal the penalty. I was contemplating methods to counter roughly a hundred machetes being put to my neck if van Persie scored, but (un)fortunately our captain heard my silent prayer for reprieve and hit an absolute stinker of a spot-kick right into De Gea’s hands. There was much sticking out of tongues and ‘same old Arsenal, always cheating’. Ashley Young then went and scored a curler that I’m absolutely sure would have gone wide 8 times out of ten (the other two times occurred in this game sadly) There was frolicking in front of the television and off-key renditions of GGMU. Rooney then made me realize that other teams actually see direct free-kicks as a scoring opportunity rather than forming a betting pool on which hotel roof van Persie would hit the ball onto.
In one of our rare forays forward, Rosicky slipped the ball in to Walcott, who tried to hit De Gea as hard as he could, but missed and put the ball into the back of the net. I proceeded to yelp with joy, but a multitude of eyes fell on me, all malicious, all malevolent, some drunk, and the yelp silently left the premises. Half time came, I was de-shirted and my tee was tossed around while I ran behind like a panting Pomeranian, trying to catch it. Fifteen minute entertainment sideshow thus conducted, the second (and much more unpleasant) forty five started.
It seems like a Novocain-induced memory now, but we were actually playing decently at the start of the second half, and had two good chances to peg one back which RvP and Arshavin missed. Then Arsene took Coquelin off for Chamberlain in the sixtieth minute, and United started hitting us like an enraged Mexican going to town on a piñata, scoring five times in thirty minutes to give the scoreline, and the common room, an unreal feel.
Rooney scored from another free-kick. Claps, whoops, me silently cursing our set-piece impotency. Nani found himself in farmlands of space in the box, lobbed Szczesny. People waved five fingers in my face and pulled the cheeks of the poor little Arsenal fan with their vermin-laced hands. I don’t quite remember how the sixth goal was scored, but my ears are still red from hearing ‘Park’s bitch, Park’s bitch, Arsenal are Park Ji Sung’s bitch’. Rooney scored a penalty, I think I half-clapped just to see what clapping felt like. Young scored another belter, I was pelted with paper balls, banana skins and all kinds of rubbish before the ninety minutes of rubbish finally came to an end.
Someone with a more positive outlook towards life would say that this was a character-building experience. And almost a week later, as I walk towards class clad in my Arsenal jersey (I am a sadistic tool like that) I know that the stares will slowly abate in their duration, the corrosive murmurs will reduce in intensity, people will go back to non-football things like studying and life, and the common room will leave me to watch matches in peace. Until the next big game, that is.
Meanwhile, a United fan just cycled past shouting ‘8-2!’ and mooned me. I could really, really do with a better scoreline next time round guys.
P.S Arsene finally seems to have gone skinny-dipping in the jaundiced waters of the transfer window, and now have five new players to call our own and abuse when they misplace a pass. I’ll reserve final judgement until I’ve seen them in red-and-white of course, but some initial thoughts are as follows:
Chu Young Park- Hard worker by all accounts, and hard work from the front is something we direly need. And can you please tell your cousin to stop being such a dick when he plays against us? Thanks!
Andre Santos- If you play for Brazil, even this current Brazil who give Lucas a starting spot, you’re a good player. We’ve got a player potentially better than Clichy for a lesser price. We’re the masters of the cut-price deal.
Per Mertesacker- Tall, German, Arsenal fan, turning circle of a Panzer tank. But a very calm and assured defender from what I’ve seen of him; am quite satisfied with this buy.
Yossi Benayoun- Not as much quality or explosiveness or statistical efficiency as Arshavin, but more work-rate and consistency. Will provide back-up both through the centre and on the wings.
Mikel Arteta- The big one. Well, not really the super-mega-huge-as-bollocks big one we were hoping for, but this could prove to be a very astute signing. Everton fans say that Arteta has regressed in the last two years, but that could just be sour grapes. He’ll keep us ticking in midfield and may up his game for the big occasions. And I’ll finally sit and watch our free-kicks instead of going to get some chips as van Persie chips them to the moon.
That was quite a long post, but it’s been a special week. And I mean both ‘special’ special and ‘Down’s Syndrome’ special. Let’s hope we see more of the former in the next few weeks. Onwards to Swansea.
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